In an ideal life, I would go to lots of foreign countries, preferably one I’m not familiar with, and go eat their food. I love trying new things and am so excited to experience what others eat every day 🙂 But today I’ll reminisce on China and what I ate while on my trip there last year. Another post to follow!
I read a Buzzfeed post a few days ago. It talked about certain ways the Americans are better than the French, in French. Even better than seeing the way the French described Americans was seeing the way French people view their own shortcomings compared to ours. For example, according to the post, apparently one way Americans have it better is in food variety. According to them, here we can find essentially any kind of food–Mexican, Italian, Chinese–all within less than ten miles from each other. While at the same time they have constantly deal with their French food.
I’m going to avoid overusing clichés (hey, I used the accent, proves that I’m so multicultural), but as they say, the grass is pretty much greener on the other side. I take the endless variety of nourriture we have here in the United States for granted and, unsurprisingly, if I could (be super stereotypical), would likely trade all of the pizza and pasta I could eat for some escargot or Camembert. But American food is really as “multicultural” as they get. In fact, they serve cafeteria food here every day that’s so multicultural even true multiculturals would be dazed by its multiculturalness. Like, this Thursday they have quiche. A quesadilla bar exists every day where you order vegetables to be sautéed and melted over a crispy (Mexican?) tortilla. Once I had teriyaki vegetables with rice, and the very next day I had spinach ravioli served with tomato sauce.
We eat so much multicultural food here that we don’t even realize what we’re eating. Having teriyaki chicken, pizza, and quiche all at once in the same cafeteria seems normal, but in reality kids from other countries would balk at all these poorly prepared options. Maybe we even become less multicultural because of all this food. Teriyaki chicken and beef broccoli represent China; never mind that broccoli essentially doesn’t exist there on places in real life. Kimchi is Korea. Butter chicken and naan represent India. And sushi represents Japan. In fact, I don’t think you’ll be able to come up with a Japanese dish that’s not sushi, because at first I couldn’t either.
But as much as we may not realize how “multicultural” our food here in the United States is, we still think of Chinese food as represented by teriyaki chicken and stir fry. And Japanese by sushi. And Indian by curry. Damn.
China’s a huge country, though, and not everyone there eats stir fry. Not everyone eats rice and vegetables and steamed buns either. In fact, the more you see people eat rice and vegetables, the less they’re likely to eat as many steamed buns. (The northern Chinese have a more flour-based diet, while the South eats more rice.)
Before last year, I, too, was guilty of thinking of Chinese food as one single unit that you either liked or didn’t like. But last year I went around China and ate a lot of food. So yay! I’m going to share all of it. (I posted these a while back on Facebook, but I didn’t get to talk about them, so here I go.)
The item on the right is a sticky-rice ball with a sweet filling. It is called a nuomici (糯米糍). I don’t know too much about it, but it’s supposed to be very popular in southern China, especially in places such as Hong Kong. On the left is a sort-of-Tamale? It’s very coarsely ground, sweetened rice flour wrapped in a corn leaf. Both were delicious. For the wrapped-in-corn-leaf items, there were packets of cornmeal and rice (instead of only rice flour, as you see above). Both items were purchased from Sichuan near Chengdu.
These are pickled cucumbers from a noodle restaurant in Xi’an. I don’t think they’re very special to northern China, but the picture looks nice, so I decided to post it. It had a rather subtle vinegar flavor (in China, almost all raw vegetables are either pickled or covered with sour sauce). I don’t know what vegetables were on the top, but the presentation looked a lot better than it actually tasted, or maybe I just don’t like raw vegetables.
Chinese airplane food, served on a two-hour flight from Xi’an to Chengdu. More generous than anything American airlines (airlines from the United States, sorry, but a good trick by American Airlines on their part) would give, although the sandwich consisted of bad-tasting white bread and mayonnaise-covered meat. But, they gave food! Also, this picture was taken with an iPad camera. You can also see a book at the bottom of the photo. I was reading The Book Thief for this year that just passed. (I haven’t started my junior-year summer reading yet… whoops)
There’s a Hong Kong-based dessert/drink store called Hui Lau Shan, and it specializes in mango use, meaning that most of their items are mango based. But they also hold other, non-sweet items, such as this radish cake here, as well as those two glutinous rice balls in the back. The two mochi-like items (I think they’re mochi, anyway) contain mango and coconut. They’re to die for. Pictures to come.
Hearing “Chinese food” makes me think about teriyaki chicken, but it also makes me think about dim sum. This is a durian pastry that I had at Guangzhou, a Chinese city next to Hong Kong. (Dim sum is native to southern China). Dim sum isn’t, in fact, a meal that you’re supposed to get full from–instead, if you go to a restaurant that serves dim sum you’ll likely see people ordering one or two dishes of a few little baozi, egg tart, etc. Although these “snacks” themselves are delicious, the pastries aren’t a very important part of dim sum; the tea is, and more important is a chance to talk and socialize over brunch. Also, watching people make dim sum is pretty cool because presentation is very important.
Stock Google image, but although durian smells pretty bad it tastes like a custard that melts in your mouth. But I’ve read elsewhere that durian is dangerous. Basically, never stand around a durian tree when the fruits are ripe 😦
I don’t understand what all the hype is with zero-calorie drinks, but whoever designed this bottle deserves an A+++. (the drink itself didn’t taste as good, unfortunately, but I’m still grateful for whoever let me take artsy pictures of it)
“Artsy” phone picture of a Wal-Mart pastry. I have exceeded all expectations.
More mango desserts, featuring my brother! I AM SO HUNGRY RIGHT NOW. So, the orange-y liquid that you see in the glass is either mango purée or a cheaper version with fillers and sweeteners. The white spheres are made of sticky rice. Mango pieces are on the right and the scoop in the middle isn’t ice cream but instead a scoop of mango-flavored… ice?
Fried mung-bean pastries, Xi’an. From a vegetarian restaurant. I’m not too sure how they made these desserts (if you could call them desserts; they weren’t too sweet) but I guess it’s a version of a flourless donut. The inside wasn’t flaky, but it wasn’t creamy either. (Sorry, I’m pretty bad at describing food.) Probably gluten free, not that I care.
Soup from the same place. Look how healthy this looks!
Biang biang noodles with tomato-and-egg sauce and vegetables from Xi’an. Ahhh soo delicious but I wished there were more tomato sauce though (I love egg and tomato). Great was that the flat flour-based noodles weren’t overcooked unlike how they are at many restaurants and cafeterias
Fried noodles; Xi’an has SO. MANY. Noodles.
Ramen; you know you want some 😉
Ugly nail polish and pulled pork sandwich (“rou jia mo”) from Xi’an
Remember those glutinous rice balls I had been talking about? This one is an another example, but it’s more of a “dessert” type–it’s filled with fresh mango. The outside is dusted with coconut flakes, and I sincerely believe that this single thing was one of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted. I just ate dinner and my mouth is watering just by looking at this picture.
My family had been living at a hotel in Nanjing after we came back from spending two days climbing Huangshan (a mountain in Anhui; all the mountains in China consist of steps) so after we came down our legs hurt for a while. We walked around the hotel and came by a store that sells these very-cute baozi. This one in particular had a custard filling; it tasted very good and was very inexpensive. We also bought soymilk and more baozi from the same store. Everything was delicious. I also spend a large chunk of time looking for the most inexpensive options, so this was nice for me.
Spinach noodles (Xi’an, China) in salty soy-sauce-based soup.
Okay so this was my first post here! I hope you’ll have as much fun reading it as I did writing about all the food I eat. I honestly love writing about food and what it tastes like but having a blog like this is pretty new to me, so I just hope I’ll continue writing here! adios ❤